Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bethany Day of Prayer

This morning I went to the Peace and Spirituality Center at St. Mary on the Lake in Bellevue for Bethany Presbyterian's annual Day of Prayer. Our church's old pastor, Bruce Murphy, and his wife Di led a group of about 30 people in a time of 'seeking stillness'. 

Not one accustomed to regular stillness, these days have been rare opportunities for quiet prayer and rejuvenation in the past. Last year I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but this year I came prepared with two Bibles, two journals and a workbook. As it turns out, I didn't need any of it. I just needed a quiet room, an open heart and a still mind... Well, I got the room...

The Murphy's provided a packet with some materials we could look at to guide our prayers. The packet explained: 

"Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. It is a time to open ourselves anew to the fullness of God's forgiveness and love in Jesus Christ."

One session really caught my interest. It explained that our objective is to be what God wants of us, not what we want of Him. I suppose this is something I'm constantly having to re-learn as I tell myself and proudly inform God of my plans on a daily basis. If only I could be more open to the other way around. According to Evelyn Underhill, (who was quoted in the packet) there are three virtues to meditate on during Lent:
  1. Poverty of spirit
  2. Purity of heart
  3. Obedience
Underhill writes: "The reason is that each of these qualities in a different way detaches us from the unreal and self-regarding interests in which (almost without knowing it) we usually fill up our lives. They simplify us, clear the ground for God, so that our relation of utter dependence on Him stands out as the one reality of our existence." 
I started to pray about some of my unreal and self-regarding interests filling my time. They fall nicely into four main areas:
  • Appearance: Mine, our home's, my work space's, my car's my action's. 
  • Organization: Everything in order, all time filled or 'utilized', my calendar, my plans, where I should be and what I should be doing.
  • What I've seen: Where have I gone, what photos have I taken, who have I met, what are my observations, comparisons.
  • What can I do: Earning, making, fixing, helping, leading.
All these things I do, and even if they're good and necessary and right are they clearing the ground for God to work through me? To fill me with His grace? Do they show me my utter dependence on God?

Pastor Murphy said something very insightful this morning that I couldn't help but share with you. He explained that throughout his life he always believed that prayer was an excellent way to prepare for the work he was called to do in the world. Then, late in his career, he realized that prayer was the work. He explained to me that once he understood this fact it put a whole new urgency, focus and devotion on his daily prayer that he had never felt before. I thought that was very powerful and a good way to frame the act of prayerful conversation with God.  

May Lent open you to the fullness of God's forgiveness and love. May this be a renewing time of soul-searching reflection for you to grow closer to the Lord.


Peggy said...

Some very insightful thoughts, Sarah. Thank you for sharing. I know that God will continue to bless you as you open your heart to Him. Love, Peg

Sarah and Dominic said...

Thank you Peg!